Phosphorus fertiliser management for pastures based on native grasses in south-eastern Australia Academic Article uri icon


  • Approximately 3.1 Mha (22%) of the agricultural area of south-eastern Australia can be classified as native pasture. There is the assumption that, owing to the widespread occurrence of low-fertility soils in Australia, native grass species do not respond to increased phosphorus (P) fertility. Currently, there are no industry recommendations of target soil-test P values for native-grass-based pastures. This paper reviews the responses of perennial native pasture species endemic to south-eastern Australia to P application in controlled environments, surveys, replicated experiments and paired-paddock trials. Eighty-seven site-years of trial data where different levels of P were applied, conducted over the last two decades, on native-based pastures in south-eastern Australia are reviewed. Data indicate that application of P fertilisers to native grass pastures can increase dry matter (DM) production and maintain pasture stability. However, minimum targets for herbage mass (800 kg DM/ha) and groundcover (80%) are required to ensure persistence of perennial native grasses. Stocking rates also need to match carrying capacity of the pasture. Based on previous research, we recommend target soil-test (Olsen; 0–10 cm) P levels for fertility-tolerant native grass pastures, based on Microlaena stipoides, Rytidosperma caespitosum, R. fulvum, R. richardsonii, R. duttonianum and R. racemosum, of 10–13 mg/kg, whereas for pastures based on fertility-intolerant species such as Themeda triandra, lower levels of <6 mg/kg are required to ensure botanical stability.

publication date

  • 2019